Advocating the preservation of federal aid to college students, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr. M.D., led a team of Stony Brook students and administrators to Capitol Hill on March 10, meeting with Congressman Tim Bishop, Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Chuck Schumer, and other members of the New York Congressional delegation. The spending plan passed by the House of Representatives in February would cut the maximum Pell Grant by 15 percent, or $845, from the current level of $5,550 available to the neediest students. Other vital support programs for students as well as funding for scientific research would be dramatically reduced or eliminated entirely under the bill, known as H.R. 1.
The delegation from Stony Brook included seniors Charles Rico, Rachel Alexandria Roger, and Zuby J. Syed, all of whom receive Pell Grants. All three students work while maintaining full academic schedules. Former SUNY Student Assembly President Melody Mercedes, now a presidential intern at Stony Brook, who received Pell Grants as an undergraduate, also attended along with President Stanley and other administrators.
In the current school year, more than 6,100 Stony Brook students—over one-third of the undergraduate student body—will receive more than $28.5 million in Pell Grants. If H.R. 1 were enacted into law, SB students would stand to lose more than $4 million in aid in the next school year.
“We are very fortunate to have Tim Bishop as our champion for higher education, fighting for federal student aid. His efforts are vital, not only to Stony Brook University students, but also to students across the entire state and nation,” said President Stanley. “I am extremely proud of our students who are taking the initiative to fight for what they believe in, and to carry the message from Stony Brook to their elected representatives in Washington on behalf of all Pell-eligible students, that these cuts should be restored. They are their own best advocates.”
“These students came to Washington with a powerful message: Help me continue my education so I can help build a brighter future for America,” said Congressman Bishop, a member of the House Higher Education Subcommittee whose Congressional district includes the Stony Brook campus. “I hope for our nation’s sake they find a receptive audience, especially from those who previously cast votes to slash the programs that keep students in the classroom.”
According to Matthew Whelan, Stony Brook’s Assistant Provost for Admissions and Financial Aid, Pell Grants are not just an investment in an individual; they are a collective investment in the country’s economic future.
“Simply put, the more students who enter and remain in the college degree pipeline, the better it is for our country and the economy,” Whelan said. “These students will pay far more into the federal budget over time via personal income taxes than we invest in their Pell Grants. Cutting Pell may actually serve to reduce federal revenue in the future and create more drain on our federal budget rather than less.”
“Receiving the Pell Grant was essential to my ability, not only to have access to an education, but to be able to complete it as well,” said Mercedes. “I have never taken for granted the doors Pell opened for me that might not have been opened otherwise. I would hate to see my siblings, or anyone else who dreams of going to college, be denied the same opportunities in the future.”